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G20 Foreign Ministers Urged to 'Find a Way Forward' on Ukraine, Food

By Nike Ching July 08, 2022

The war in Ukraine and its impact on energy and food supplies dominated G-20 talks Friday in Bali.

The G-20 host country called on ministers to "find a way forward" in discussing the war and its impact on rising food and energy prices.

"It is our responsibility to end the war sooner rather than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield," Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said at the opening of the meeting, invoking the U.N. charter to urge multilateralism and trust.

Foreign ministers shared concerns about getting grain shipments out of Ukraine and avoiding devastating food shortages in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But talks were marked by sharp tension: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sat at the same table but did not speak directly.

Lavrov accused Western ministers of straying "almost immediately, as soon as they took the floor, to the frenzied criticism of the Russian Federation in connection with the situation in Ukraine."

"You know, it was not us who abandoned all contacts," Lavrov told reporters after the first session. "It was the United States ... and we are not running after anybody suggesting meetings. If they don't want to talk, it's their choice."

Lavrov walked out of the meetings twice Friday - first, as German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addressed a session on strengthening multilateralism, and second just before Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, addressed the session on food and energy security via video link.

At a plenary session, Blinken urged Moscow to release Ukrainian grain to the world, according to a Western official.

"He addressed Russia directly, saying, 'To our Russian colleagues: Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out,'" the official said.

Lavrov was not in the room when Blinken spoke.

Blinken, after meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, whose country will host the G-20 next year, said the organization "is a vital institution for trying to deal collectively with some of the most significant problems and challenges that the world faces."

Blinken said many of those challenges stem from the Russian war on Ukraine, and that others at the G-20 had expressed similar concerns.

"So, I think what we've heard today already, is a strong chorus from around the world - not just the United States, but around the world - about the need for the aggression to end so that we can actually focus on the challenges that are affecting people in their lives," he said.

Blinken will participate in bilateral meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday.

"This is part of an ongoing, and I think important, series of conversations with our Chinese counterparts across the government to make sure that we are responsibly managing the relationship," a senior State Department official said Thursday, adding that the relationship has "different aspects to it, from profound competition being at the heart [but also] elements of cooperation, and there are elements of contestation."

The agenda for the meetings between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats includes possible cooperation on climate change, global health, counternarcotics and the situation in Myanmar, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink.

Blinken will have two lengthy meetings with Wang, with the first session likely focusing on bilateral relations and the second focusing on regional and international issues, according to diplomatic sources.

Blinken's meeting with the Chinese foreign minister will be their first in person since the chief U.S. diplomat unveiled the Biden administration's strategy to outcompete the rival superpower.

In his remarks at the time, Blinken said that the U.S. was not seeking to decouple from China and that the relationship between the world's two largest economies was not a zero-sum game.

After the G-20 ministerial, Blinken will head to Bangkok, where he is expected to discuss the situation in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

This week's ministerial will not produce an official document or communique, according to G-20 co-sherpa Dian Triansyah Djani.

VOA's Cecily Hilleary contributed to this report.



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